EGN's 2014 Year in Review - Part II

December 30, 2014 | UPDATED Dumbest Use of Taxpayer’s Money For Vanity Purposes in 2014 Without a doubt, it was city’s placement in ...

December 30, 2014 | UPDATED

Dumbest Use of Taxpayer’s Money For Vanity Purposes in 2014

Without a doubt, it was city’s placement in the Houston Business Journal with an ad saying “Don’t Mess with Elk Grove.” It might have made the Mayor and Council City Members feel cocky and put some swagger in their walk, but really, aside from some run on local TV news, what were the quantitative results? NONE. Perhaps this was hung on the neck of Elk Grove’s former economic development director, Randy Starbuck, who was unceremoniously run out of town months after this waste of taxpayers dollars.

Worst headline of 2014 about Elk Grove in a mainstream media outlet

Undoubtedly this has to go to Channel 13’s report on the city’s purchase of 99-acres on Grant Line Road. The headline from reporter Steve Large’s September 25 story read “Elk Grove May Be Paying More Than Double Value Of Land For Proposed Soccer Stadium”

See the interview here.

Most honest quote from an Elk Grove official 

During the Steve Large interview noted above, when asked why the city paid twice the assessed value of the property, Gill indignantly replied “I don’t know, I’m not a real estate expert.”  We agree - City Manager Laura Gill is no real estate expert. However, having used that as her defense on why the city paid twice the assessed value, why was she the point-person in negotiations for the Grant Line property that cost taxpayers over $4 million? Can you say credibility gap? 
From the August 13, Elk Grove City Council special meeting agenda. 
He correctly identified Elk Grove as an easy mark award
Jeroen Gerrese - would you 
buy a built-in swimming pool 
from this man?

This award goes to P3 International and its principal, Jeroen Gerrese. Not only did Gerrese extract about a cool three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar consulting fee from the city for the half-baked aquatics center, he failed to deliver a financing plan as promised. Could the failure to deliver a financing plan show underwriters are skeptical about the project's fiscal viability and become a drain of taxpayers money? Regardless, the word is out - Elk Grove is becoming known as an easy mark for consultants.

As for Gerresse’s other business ventures, he has expanded to Africa with his P3Africa business. Perhaps a chance meeting between Gerrese and the Emir of Katsina?

The Displacement Award - You Make the Call!

This is a fill-in the blank award left to you, our loyal readers. Is this unhealthy, some might say obsessive, desire by the boys on the city council to erect large things like a big Olympic sized-pool, a big 30-meter diving platform or a big soccer stadium some sort of Freudian displacement condition happening right before our very eyes?  

Worst bluffing award 

The Elk Grove City Council and the city’s executive staff can claim this prize by asserting they knew about a competing aquatics center now under constructions from the adjacent Southgate Parks and Recreation District. If so, why during the entire vetting process was it never presented by the city staff? Like the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, there is a growing credibility gap at city hall. 



The  Most Innovative Subdivision Design of the Year  Award


Vintara Park, aka Silverado. After years of public controversy, a lawsuit filed by residents, and countless developer contributions to city council member's war chests, the war of attrition was finally won by, surprise, surprise, the developers! This project represents the pinnacle of development in Elk Grove not seen anywhere else in the city - the developer will be required to install a concrete pathway from the side yard gate to the driveway for each lot so the trash bins can be rolled back and forth with ease, rather than the planning department's preference of tan bark. Now that's innovation! 

Missed opportunity of the decade

See most innovative subdivision design award above. To bad PMC, err, we mean the city council, is so beholden to developers. The city could have purchased this surplus property from the Sacramento Area Sewer District, relatively speaking, for a song. Those 230-acres that could have been a UC Davis Ag satellite farm/ranch for benefit of all area schools and 4-H programs, a regional park or been used as part of the regions burgeoning farm-to-fork movement.  Now it will be more more housing and more traffic along Bond Road.

Speaking Truth to Power Award

Love him or loathe him, Michael Monasky has never been afraid to speak his mind. While there are many examples of this, we believe Monasky’s comments to the Elk Grove City Council last February, which Mayor Gary Davis tried to block, helped kill the Elk Grove taxpayer-funded visit by the Nigerian Prince.


Best David Copperfield disappearing act of the year

This year’s honor goes to Mayor Gary Davis. After all his bluster, boosting, spin, trash-talking of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and outright self-delusion about bringing Major League Soccer to Elk Grove, when the MLS delegation actually showed up for their visit last September, the mayor went missing in action leaving then Vice Mayor Jim Cooper to show the entourage around town and talk it up on local media. Fabian Nunez, the city's partner in pursuit of the MLS franchise, was also MIA and earns an honorable mention.
Before offering his services to Elk 
Grove, Wrong Way Feldman's regular
haunt was Gilligan's Island.

Wrong Way Feldman award

Late this summer the City of Elk Grove quickly purchased a  99-acre parcel on Grant Line assessed at about $2 million dollars for $4 million, then, in a classic Wrong Way Feldman-type move, leases it for six months for a whopping $2,500. We tried to calculate the return, but there were too many zero’s to the right of the decimal point!

Pettiest tweet from an Elk Grove elected official

Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis not only made himself look like a petulant cry baby with his ball hog tweet aimed at Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson below, he made the good people of Elk Grove look like a bunch of local yokels. 


It shows how much influence real estate developers have in Elk Grove award

The Elk Grove City Council wins this one, but not for the reasons you think. Sure, developers have flexed their muscle in numerous ways through the years in Elk Grove. But who was happiest when the Elk Grove City Council appointed a developer-friendly person to the city council? Region Builders and Joshua Woods were head-over-heels and really excited when the city council unanimously appointed Darren Suen to the District 1 vacancy. The council said they made the appointment to save the financial cost of letting the people of Elk Grove select who will represent them on the dais. But really, cui bono from this smoke screen?   

Funniest report on Elk Grove's MLS soccer stadium and property purchase  

We all make mistakes, even the big boys. This mistake wasn't your typical typo though. When KCRA's Michelle Schultz reported on the City of Elk Grove's purchase of 99-acres for the proposed MLS soccer stadium, she said it was on Grant Line Road near Watermelon Road! It is true - we all goof up!



Most irritating clock of the year

We’ve all seen versions over the last 20 years or so of the national debt clock. Or for those of us old enough to remember duck and cover drills at school during the Cold War, may recall the Doomsday Clock, which is currently set at about 2355 hours. EGN has started its own clock to monitor the progress of Mayor Gary Davis and Council Member Steve Ly’s promise to bring new, private sector, high-paying non-retail non-fast food jobs to our city. We admit it might be annoying or even nit picking, but this was the promise both men made during their successful elections so we intend to monitor their progress. The clock is ticking!  



Where’s my Mickey’s and Colt 45?

After hearing from the Hawaiian shirt-clad one for the last few years about how his fast food, beer cave, liquor store, yogurt shop, gas station and what-ever-else-is-going-in-there-development is going to be the best things to come to Elk Grove since sliced bread, or at least the Mayor's coffee, why hasn’t constructions started on Elk Grove’s newest economic engine - Gil Moore’s emporium and world headquarters. Moore and his billboard-buddy Bruce Bishop got their 80-foot tall plastic Elk-festooned sign approved, but still no construction on his gas station and junk food establishment. Where are customers to go to get propositioned, and shoplifter’s to steal their quarts of Mickey’s and Colt 45! What gives Gil Moore?

"We can put the elk back in Elk Grove now"award 


These were the words spoken by Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis when he, along with all his fellow council members approved the erection of an 80-foot plastic elk topped billboard. Davis also said, "I actually think there is quirkiness that comes with it, that gives us character."  

Best use of Mayoral Power to make your neighborhood quieter and get a private horse trail  

This may not rank up there with Republican accusations about President Obama’s abuse of the Executive Order, but this Elk Grove citizen thinks Mayor Gary Davis used his position to get the traffic restricting Rubia Drive gate, where the mayor lives, installed at the cost of $14,000. Did the Mayor use his influence to get this gate installed?



Elk Grove’s accomplishment of the year award

This award goes to the Elk Grove Trails Committee for spearheading the Highway 99 overpass trail connector. Given the Elk Grove City Council’s abysmal record of seeing any project through to completion, it is unlikely the city would have done this without the prodding and pushing of the trail committee. Memo to new council members Darren Suen and Steve Ly - before you develop tin ears, listen to ideas from citizens.  You never know where or when you will hit gold!

Why citizens lose out award


As a rule, the Elk Grove city council chamber is usually empty during council meetings. Oh sure it will fill on special occasions, but for the most part, other than developers pushing their plans and a handful of concerned citizens, meetings are not well attended. Politicians will claim it is because they are doing their job. A shrewd politican will never admit it, but they know a disaffected, disengaged and yes, a cynical populace will let them get away with most things - just think of what might have happened if Michael Monasky had not spoken on the Nigerian Emir's visit. As it was, Mayor Gary Davis only allowed Monasky to speak because of his insistence. Our council members may not collectively be the smartest guys in the room, but they are the best developers money can buy.









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36 comments

Sarah Johnson said...

All true, unfortunately! Sad that this is the state of our city. How about starting a new year with better decisions?

Mark Doty, Vice Chair Trails Committee said...

As I was reading this article I was growing disappointed there was no mention of the Highway 99 ped/bike bridge. Alas, amongst the gloomy reminder of our past year you did make a positive mention of the bridge. Many thanks to those who came before me to make this bridge happen.

Anonymous said...

Spot on Dan! The entire year was a joke! Can't make this stuff up.

Deaf, Dumb and Blind Award said...

It appears the only good work from the city this year has come from the appointed commissions as noted by EGN. Maybe it is because they serve for all the right reasons and not for ego.

IMO, the council has proven they are guided solely by money, their personal interests and ego, showing enormous weakness, giving an even lower meaning to the word politician by being vain and officious. And the mere fact they cannot look at tape after tape of Gill, the revolving door of poor hires and expensive exits, her appalling management of the city, cannot see that she is a dreadful city manager, cannot hear her stammering and stuttering trying back herself out of a corner, costing the taxpayers millions of dollar, shows they are blind as well.

Is there any hope for these politicians? According to Will Rogers, "A politician is just like a pickpocket; it's almost impossible to get him to reform."

Anonymous said...

.


Proud Heritage, Bright Future?

Elk Grove Thriving?


A City by the developers, of the developers and FOR the developers!

Increase in armed robberies, assaults and various street crimes

More sprawl, horrendous congestion and smog.

$100 million soccer stadium

Paid $6 MILLION for a piece of land that sold for $700,000 three years prior.

Garish 70 - 100 foot tall lighted freeway monument signs

Sister city to the Kingdom of Zamunda

Octopus Civic Center

Amusement park right across from single family homes in Madeira "the Jewel of Elk Grove".

Visions of the Olympic Trials.

3,600 units of high density very low and low income housing on the way to "Meridian" (the Southeast Plan Area) - Hood of the future to be known as Mack Road South.

Trash blowing in the wind,flat, bland, hot, windy sprawling, fast food joints, nail salons, gun stores, smoke shops, vape palaces, strip malls, cheap looking high density low income apartment projects, lack of symphony light opera and ballet, very few upscale restaurants, dollar stores, cookie cutter houses.

Texas?

No, Elk Grove brought to you by the rubber stampers.

Stockton and Modesto have performing arts centers, orchestras and other cultural amenities.

Stockton and Modesto have high quality local restaurants.

Elk Grove has fast food joints, chain restaurants and convenience store cuisine.

Bring on more garish 100 foot tall freeway signs, low income housing projects, liquor stores, fast food joints, shooting ranges, gun stores, smoke shops and nail salons.

Elk Grove Thriving!

Proud Heritage, Bright Future?


.

Warren Buffett said...

Outstanding summary EGN. I can hardly wait until 2015 to see if we can top 2014! Maybe the Doomsday Clock can be a salt timer set up on the dias, and the salt is our budget reserves!

Anonymous said...

Looking incredibly dismal this past year, actually could say these last few years. Still, it's a sad reminder. As said above...all true!

Michael Monasky said...

I'm not really sure how to feel about receiving an "award" referenced between pictures of the city manager and Wrong Way Feldman!
So little is said at city council meetings by us, the little people, that I'm beginning to feel a lot like one of the Lollipop Kids from the Land of Oz, only lonelier.

Michael Monasky

Anonymous said...

Gaze into your crystal ball...what does 2015 hold for Elk Grove? More of the same???

New Year's Day quiz for 2015 is meant to test the mettle of Elk Grove clairvoyants. You know, the oracles, the seers, and the augurs. Is our future looking brighter or is it more of the same as listed above? Will Mr. Ly and Mr. Suen make a difference?

Anonymous said...

Ah, but take heart.

Elk Grove is legally represented by a nationally renowned firm, none other than that which represents Click and Clack - Dewey, Cheathan and Howe.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where to post this so I'll post it here. What happened to the Q & A article with the newly appointed Mr. Suen? I saw it posted sometime yesterday but know I don't see it. What gives?

Lynn said...

This article says it all...there will be more next year when the sphere of influence is back; you know Elk Grove needs to expand outside its boundaries; all about the jobs.

Lynn said...

The bridge and bike/walk trail completed and was done only because we have a dedicated trails committee who persisted!!! This benefits the community and adds to the quality of life within Elk Grove. Thanks again trail committee for hanging in there and pushing! You all deserve a "key" to the city as you opened a path for us and are the key gave residents a beneficial, tangible project; way better than a feasibility study!

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

Can Mr. Ly and Mr. Suen make a difference? Mr. Ly is a hand selected puppet of Mayor Davis who is a mindless drone. Mr. Suen is like Council Members Detrick and Hume who knows how better to flash a nice smile and camouflage his words while doing the bidding of the developers. As Pete Townsend wrote, meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

Anonymous said...

This town appears to be a dump in the making judging by the comments above.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 20:10 Saw nothing on this web site about an interview with Mr. Suen.

Anonymous said...

revolving door under MS gill is correct. off top of the head, I can think of at least

2 Human Relations managers
2 planning directors
2 budget managers
2 assistant deputy managers
2 attorneys
2 police / asst police chiefs and 1 publicly looking for exit in seattle
1 Economic Development Manager
1 trash manager
rank and file staff - analysts and now our PIO. even with the turnover and anonymous complaints, nobody sees it or nobody cares. 2015 more will leave

Ralph Kramden said...

Anon 22:47

You forgot the bus managers!

Anonymous said...

Remember "our" Mayor Davis' comments about a new business coming to EG. Now that's just what I call a CLASS act!

Davis also said he believes Grace will have a competitive advantage over Dutch Brothers by offering a more distinct, high-quality product.

"I have been to their shops before and think they do a pretty good job," Davis said. "However, Grace Coffee Roasters difference is that we use the highest quality, Elk Grove roasted, coffee beans and blend them fresh to then be hand-crafted by expert baristas into a cup of pure Grace."

Anonymous said...

What a hick city!

The place looks like a boring suburb in the midwest.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 20:10 -

You saw the Q&A with Suen on another site, Elk Grove-Laguna Forums, not here.

Anon 20:10 said...

@Anon 8:08 ~ Whoops, sometimes these sites blend together. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

A hugh eyesore I have noticed for a few years and have always wondered why the city didn't clean it up...that being along the east side of Bruceville between Civic Center & EG Blvd. The land owner mowed his property, but the city has never cleaned up their area. It doesn't appear that you can get a mower into the area and would have to be done by hand. Terrible looking and in the Jewel of EG area too!

Lynn said...

Connie,

I think you know the answers to your questions already.
For what reason would anyone want to come to Elk Grove. I would take a reduce pay to be able to do my job and have my professional opinion respected. If you notice the majority of staff reports ask for "Council Direction". For me this translates; we as a staff have learned that our professional opinion means nothing to this council and the people in top management positions are in self preservation mode.
And people most recently hired, as nice as they are, do not hold the qualifications for such position. Again my opinion. Nice people...nice yes people...
Remember the "top" bosses are our city council leaders. And of course in the end they will continue to blame others and the economy when things are not working out....scapegoats...

Connie said...

I asked that my comment to be pulled because corrections were needed. This is the comment that Lynn is addressing.

Off topic for a minute because of the list of key employees above who have left the city's employ - one in particular that is still vacant.

One look on the city of Elk Grove’s website and you will see that the job posting is still there for an Economic Development Director. How much of a search is being done, I wondered.

The city of Elk Grove is a member of ICMA which is the International City/County Management Association. In the past, we have heard that nationwide searches were being done when upper level management positions were open; even going so far as to hire head hunters at a very nice fee. [For example, we have done that several times when the city attorney position was open and we didn't get much of return on our investment there, did we?]

However, in her routine updates we have heard nothing from City Manager Laura Gill on the hiring of what is supposed to be our number priority. Don’t we need a jobs person in order to bring "jobs, jobs, jobs" to Elk Grove? There is no such job posting for Elk Grove on ICMA. So where has the job been posted? The Sacramento Bee?

Our people are leaving our city for other cities in the region, not the other way around even though we have some of the highest paid positions in the region. The Sacramento Business Journal does a salary comparison every year, yet our employees are still exiting for other cities. Why is that?

Shouldn't the Council be asking for an update on the status of hiring a new Economic Development Director? I would think so.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Found one...salary looks pretty good for a city our size.

http://www.caled.org/jobs/

Connie said...

Correction needed in my post above. . . “what is supposed to be our number onepriority.”

Yes, Lynn I do know the answers but others may not including our two new Council members. One report I would ask for is a full accounting of the key employees who have left the city’s employ and how much were their severance packages. Then I would ask for another confidential employee survey – and a real confidential survey this time.

Does the Council really know what is occurring at city hall when they are not present? Of course, everyone is singing Pharrell’s “Happy” song when one is there and certainly during council meetings.

Gary was on PBS the other night. He proclaimed his first order of business when he was first sworn back in 2006 was to ask for a “full audit” of the city. I think another one is long overdue. But in asking for one, how will we be assured it won’t be just another smoke and mirrors exercise? And I certainly don’t have the answer to that question!

Anonymous said...

Our current city manager was the former CAO of El Dorado County. From the Bee just recently regarding her predecessor, “El Dorado County’s chief administrative officer, once hailed by supervisors for trying to change a toxic workplace culture, has been forced from her job and will be paid nine months’ salary while the county searches for a replacement.

Terri Daly, the CAO for five years, was a key backer of a $250,000 program that hired outside trainers to improve the county’s working environment after an independent “climate assessment” survey of more than 1,200 employees reported low morale and a perceived culture of harassment, favoritism or retaliation.”

Point is, the El Dorado County Board of Sups would not have approved a quarter of a million dollars if there weren't serious problems after the new CAO was hired.

Anonymous said...

I think a all staff evaluation or assessment of how they view the city culture would be appropriate at this time. I think The city manager and the other upper management at the city has not managed the city council's ideas and allows them to make fools of themselves and the city. The City Manager needs to be more engaged and start activating the plans that are approved. I don't blame the city council for a lack of products when the City Manager is responsible for activating the plans. Time for some new leadership on the staffing level of the city. No more smoke and mirrors.

Anonymous said...

I would think this recap would scare every taxpayer in the city...plus this is not mentioning what has gone before 2014. We have Feasibility Studies stacked to the roof and nothing has ever been completed. A read I found and agree with....

"Feasibility consultants (like any kind of consultant) do have a perverse incentive to tell their clients what they want to hear, rather than the objective truth. Feasibility consultants are often used to validate a preexisting decision with presentations full of data and analysis. But, they are often responding to the overconfidence of their clients. I don’t think that even a very honest firm would think its job is to check the client’s ambitions."

Off topic perhaps...the new LED street lights. Seems they're running a month behind schedule and problems exist with some that have been installed. Perhaps that is the reason for the lag time.

Anonymous said...

This whole debacle should be written up in the SacBee and discussed on TV News reports.

Anonymous said...

What about Cropsmobsters and mayor davis big plans as first city in nation with the app?? What happened to that?

Anonymous said...

what ever happened to crops mobster food app the city did?

Anonymous said...

You forgot the crops mobster Dan!!! wonder how thats going

http://sfbay.cropmobster.com/press-release-elk-grove-community-exchange-powered-cropmobster/

Anonymous said...

Employee surveys don't work, no matter how confidential or anonymous they claim to be. Employees fear being identified and losing their jobs. If you want the real story, you'd have to track down employees who have left and even if that was possible, they have no vested interest anymore in being honest. The bottom level city employees are hard working people just doing what they are told and trying to keep their job. Unfortunately, they are not the ones who are valued and are just considered whiners if they voice an opinion. Everyone is replaceable and nothing is going to change.

Anonymous said...

The story makes Elk Grove sound like a dumpster fire.

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