2017 Elk Grove Year in Review

December 29, 2017 |  

The man who couldn’t stay out in the cold  

Often when politicians voluntarily leave elected office, they slip into a state of invisibility. That has not been the case for former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis.

After leaving office in 2016 to “spend more time” with his family, Davis just couldn’t stay away. In his post elected political life, Davis bestowed an honorary title himself early in 2017 when he gave himself the title of Mayor emeritus

Most definitions of emeritus say it is something like a retired academic is given by an institution, not granted by yourself. It seems Davis just couldn’t stand out being in the cold without that title and identity. 

Not surprisingly Davis, in conjunction with his self-bestowed title, launched the Elk Grove Community Council which includes among its board of directors, Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond "Chuckie" Hitchcock.

Quote of the Year – Citizen

“I’m watching you. I don't like you.”

Elk Grove resident Steve Lee to Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly. The mayor complained in a story in the Elk Grove Citizen about money coming from the Bay Area in opposition to the proposed Wilton Rancheria casino. Lee noted Ly’s hypocrisy pointing out he had done extensive fundraising – you guessed it – not only out of the Elk Grove region but out of state as well.

Where’s Davis, Doan, NRC – acronym of the year

In March 2016, Former mayor emeritus Gary Davis hyped-up the big announcement that Elk Grove, or The Grove as he tried to brand the city, had joined the big leagues. No, we aren’t talking about the mayor’s ill-fated plans for a Major League Soccer team. 

Instead, Elk Grove had lured a silicon valley giant, NRC Manufacturing to locate new facilities in the city’s all-important Southeast Policy Area, the city’s supposed job-magnet. 

Since that time, not one job has come, and NRC appears to have withdrawn its plans to locate its contract manufacturing facility to The Grove. This has led to a nickname for NRC - Not Really Coming. 

Business as Usual in The Grove

If you are a developer, there is one sure way not only to get your project approved but to get citizens to pay for a portion of it and that is to give Elk Grove Council Members cash contributions. That is what Louie Pappas has successfully done. 

First, he received a multi-million dollar incentive from the city for helping locate the Prison Healthcare offices a few years back. This year he scored an $8 million taxpayer incentive on the Costco store planned for the Laguna Ridge neighborhood. 

Yup, it’s business as usual in The Grove.

Quote of the year – bureaucrat

“I have 17 years of experience reviewing developer financials. I don’t pretend to be a CPA or a commercial expert, but I do have a lot of experience looking at taking apart and rebuilding financial pro-formas for real estate projects.” 

Darrell Doan, Elk Grove’s economic development director, discussing why he thought Elk Grove should give an $8 million taxpayer incentive to developer Louie Pappas for construction of a Costco store.

No such thing as bad publicity

Early in 2017 when the unresolved fight on the proposed Wilton Rancheria casino was in full bloom, casino opponents ran a series of TV commercials one of which said ‘Shame on You Mayor Steve Ly.’ As the saying goes, maybe there is no such thing as bad publicity. 

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead

Another year has come and gone, and the long-awaited shopping center, currently named The Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, promised for community shoppers is still dead, and its condition remains stable. The death occurred nine years ago this July, and experts tell us it will be dead for at least another year, at a minimum. 

Losses stack up for Mayor Steve Ly 

After winning the mayor’s office in 2016, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly has had a string of losses. Not only did his fellow council members ingloriously strip his of his full-time assistant, but he also failed to get a nominee to the Elk Grove Planning Commission appointed, and his timid suggestion that the city council discuss going to by-district voting was set aside like a flat beer by his colleagues.

On the bright side, to date he hasn’t conjured up any crazy schemes like his predecessor and mentor former Elk Grove Mayor, strike that, Mayor Emeritus Gary Davis. There is always 2018 we suppose for Ly to come up with some crazy scheme. 

Where’s Waldo?

Jersey Mike's in Sacramento's Delta Shores shopping center. 
If there is one thing as certain as death and taxes are that Elk Grove’s economic development director Darrel Doan, when he is not being wined and dined while attending trade shows in Las Vegas on the taxpayers’ dime, will show up at ribbon cuttings sponsored by the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce. Yet he was visibly missing from a ribbon cutting ceremony at a new chamber member, Jersey Mike's subs shop. 

Oops, that business is in the City of Sacramento’s Delta Shores Shopping Center. Could it be Jersey Mike's and other retailers in Delta Shores are tapping into bucks travelling up one exit on I-5 from Elk Grove to their businesses?

Never mind. 

Mayor Steve Ly MIA during January floods

During January floods many elected officials in the Sacramento region used their social media platforms to disseminate important public safety information. While Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly famously uses his platforms to show him riding tricycles or getting his grub on with some ribs, he was conspicuously MIA when he could have used his network to distribute information.

The Boys from ‘Bama to the rescue

For some inexpiable reason, Elk Grove economic development director Darrell Doan and city manager Laura Gill were compelled to fork over a $50,000 contract - just below the amount needed for Elk Grove City Council approval - to a Birmingham, Alabama-based retail leasing agency by the name of Retail Strategies. The Boys from ‘Bama – no not Nick Sabin’s crew – were retained to recruit high-end retailers to The Grove. 

While the 'Bama Boys enjoyed success in bringing milquetoast retailers like Applebee’s and Dollar Tree stores to a host of backwater Ozark cities, we're not quite sure if they are ready for prime time in The Grove. Then again, maybe that $50,000 will get that high-end 99 Cent store promised for Elk Grove-Florin Road opened sometime in the next five years. 

Mayor Steve Ly throws a gutter ball 

In terms of political victories for Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, 2017 has been an unmitigated disaster. Aside from his failure to get any support from his city council colleagues, the mayor was unable to leverage his position with his fellow Democratic Party members.

In January an entire slate that the Mayor put together that included himself and his wife, lost in their bid to be elected as delegates to the Democratic Party for California's 9th Assembly district. They lost to a slate of progressives Democrats and labor interest that included current mayoral challenger Tracie Stafford.

The event, which drew record voters on a rainy, cold January day was held at the Pin n' Strikes Bowling alley in The Grove. All told, Mayor Steve Ly threw a gutter ball in this contest.   

One, two, three, what are we fighting four…will number four city council appointment come later this year?

The Elk Grove City Council is racking up a dubious record on appointments following elections in 2012, 2014, and 2016….Will the 2018 elections bring another? In 2017 Stephanie Nguyen was the third person in a row appointed to the District 4 seat. This time it was vacated by Steve Ly following his election to mayor.

Should Darren Suen challenge Mayor Steve Ly, and win, he will have to vacate his District 1 seat, thereby creating another vacancy for the fourth time in a role. If history is any guide, that vacancy will be filled by yet another appointment and our city council could be made of three people who were appointed, not elected by the people. It is as if there seems to be some sort of Illuminati conspiracy at work here. 

Entire Elk Grove City Council AWOL from Wilton Rancheria grand announcement

On February 14, the Wilton Rancheria made a major announcement that yes, indeed, they were going to be building their $400 million casino. The ceremony was held on the northern portion of the Ghost Mall site they had purchased from the Howard Hughes Corporation.

While the announcement was somewhat premature given the pending lawsuits filed in federal court, that did not stop Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond "Chuckie" Hitchcock and Assembly Member Jim Cooper declaring great things were coming to The Grove.

Interestingly, for all the Elk Grove city council members chest-pounding how great the casino would be for the city, not one of them showed up for the mid-morning event. Perhaps they didn't want to be photographed at the scene of the crime, and have them show up on mailers during the 2018 election season.

But, ooh, the mayor emeritus managed to show up though so that counts for something. 

Better luck next year wannabe Elk Grove outlet shoppers

It seems every year the Howard Hughes Corporation promises that “next year” construction will resume on The Lent Ranch Mall, Elk Grove Promenade, The Outlet Collection at Elk Grove.

In early December as they are want to do, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly told the Elk Grove Citizen that HHC informed him construction would for sure, definitely, without a doubt, will maybe start in 2019. At that point, the shopping center known as The Ghost Mall will have lain fallow for 11 years! The Outlet Collection at Elk Grove is still dead! 

Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye!   

Oh, even though the Howard Hughes Corporation has promised construction of the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove will start in 2019, as of December they reportedly have not renewed their membership for 2018 with the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce and are not listed in the directory. 

The most offensive behavior – ever – by a City of Elk Grove council member 

In Elk Grove’s 17-plus years, there have been several instances of offensive behavior by council members. But nothing, absolutely nothing, reached the depths of embarrassment for the entire city of Elk Grove like Mayor Steve Ly’s display at a memorial service last September for three slain children in West Sacramento. A West Sacramento city council member verified reports from a member of the Washington Unified School District that Ly and his entourage acted in a most inappropriate, crass, and self-centered manner during a community vigil service honoring the young victims.

Every picture tells a story, don’t it! 

During Elk Grove’s annual Western Festival, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly and Council Member Darren Suen raced on tricycles. Aside from the Michael-Dukakis-in-a-tank-look qualities for both pols, the picture is a barometer of ambitions of both men with Suen widely expected to challenge his fellow Democrat Ly in the 2018 mayoral election. 

One way of putting Elk Grove on the map

2017 saw a steady stream of arrests by Elk Grove Police for illegal indoor residential marijuana growing operations. We frankly lost count as the EGPD’s street crime unit has been on quite a roll cracking down on the alleged criminal enterprises. Too bad the city can’t leverage these operations come January 1, 2018, when pot is legalized in the state. It could make The Grove the destination city long envisioned by Mayor Emeritus Gary Davis.

Worst, or is it the most telling political picture of the year?

Politicians using social media should take heed when using these platforms. While the use of Facebook and Twitter can help communicate valuable information. It can also be a self-induced trap as evidenced by Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly.

At this year’s Western Festival, Ly posted what appears to be a close-up of him getting his grub on with some pork ribs….a politician chowing away at some pork is not the best look, but hey, maybe Ly can leverage this for some cash from Iowa pork farmers on his next Midwest fundraising trip. 

If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, again; or the little engine that could

A few years back, the City of Elk Grove was outsmarted by a group of community smart planning advocates and environmental groups who thwarted their efforts to expand the city by up to 8,000-acres.

Notwithstanding three applications by private parties still seeking expansion, the City of Elk Grove has seemingly seized on a new justification for expansion – make Elk Grove a base for commuters to Silicon Valley.

Hence the recent push led by Elk Grove City Council Member Pat Hume to build a commuter station on the city’s westside for the Altamont Commuter Express, or ACE.  It seems the city council has awoken to the fact that the 25,000 high-paying jobs promised by Mayor Emeritus Gary Davis are not going to materialize and now they are spinning this ACE commuter station as part of their new found spirit of regional cooperation. 

Hey, whatever it takes to get those rooftops!

Police chief shows how to do it

Unlike his bosses on the Elk Grove City Council, Elk Grove Police Bryan Noblett demonstrated how to handle outlandish claims by President Donald Trump. Last summer Elk Grove council members Steve Detrick and Darren Suen were caught flatfooted and seemingly agreed with President Trump's assessment that both sides were to blame for the Charlottlesville, Virginia tragedy.

When Trump implied that police officers should engage in brutality of suspects in their custody, Noblett pushed back with the tweet posted below. While symbolic, it does send an important message of the professionalism expected of law enforcement officials in Elk Grove.

Best channeling of Trump - Ly lies

After Mayor Steve Ly was confronted in October with his misdeeds at the West Sacramento vigil service, he seemed to channel his personal inner Donald Trump. Rather than be contrite, apologize and ask for forgiveness as most decent people would do, he went hyphy and Trumpish denying any wrongdoing.

This outright lying by Ly came even though two elected officials from West Sacramento independently verified his abhorrent behavior. Who do you believe?    

The cover of the book looks nice, but the reality is entirely different

In the last few years leadership in Elk Grove has seized on the community’s ethnic and racial diversity to promote the city. While the vast majority of people in The Grove are respectful, just below the surface all was not well as evidenced by the late summer hate incident at an Old Town Elk Grove beauty salon owned by an African American entrepreneur. 

In reality, some ugly undertones that have long been present in the community percolated to the surface in 2017. Elk Grove Council Member Pat Hume acknowledged this underbelly of Elk Grove noting the city's redneck heritage.

Whether this rediscovered Elk Grove redneck heritage is the result of the election of Donald Trump is an open debate. Nonetheless, how city leaders handle such future incidents will in no small part be a determining factor of Elk Grove’s future success. 

Can’t win for losing award

In the aftermath of a spate of late summer hate incidents in The Grove, the city’s public relations machine responded by generating some graphics promoting tolerance. Unfortunately, several observers criticized the images for its emphasis on the “man" between U and I. 

And, as luck would have it, the city ended the year with another  stubbed-their-toe mashup graphic that managed to offend several individuals.  Some things are just better left unsaid.

Telling the emperor, or in Elk Grove's case the mayor, he has no clothes award

Elk Grove resident Steve Lee put book ends on public comments during Elk Grove City Council meeting by twice telling Mayor Steve Ly he is not wearing clothes. Early in 2017 Lee highlighted the mayor's hypocrisy about outside money in Elk Grove politics. Then as the year was winding down Lee criticized the mayor's inappropriate behavior at the vigil service in West Sacramento for the three slain children (see video above). 

Chromebooks for everyone – just tell Chuckie I told you to call him

As revealed by documents obtained by litigants battling the Elk Grove over access to public records concerning the proposed Wilton Rancheria Casino, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly is not above using his position to extract some favors for his son’s elementary teacher.

The document revealed Ly told hisson's elementary school teacher to contact the Wilton Rancheria and get the requested classroom Chromebooks at his bequest. If this sort of shakedown is happening, you can only wonder what kind of "favors" the Elk Grove City Council is seeking in less documented ways.

No wonder the City is fighting the public document requests surrounding the casino tooth and nail.     

Thank God for Mello Roos in Laguna Ridge!

If it wasn’t for sky-high Mello Roos fees imposed on residents in the Laguna Ridge neighborhood, chances are the city’s aquatic center would not have broken ground. Unfortunately for those residents, the costs of the construction and maintenance of that money pit will be hung like an albatross around their neck for years to come.

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, part II

The Grove’s dreams of becoming some sort of soccer mecca are on life support. Not only was Elk Grove never seriously considered as a site for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise – what were they thinking, really! – plans for the soccer fields are teetering. 

Last spring the City had discussions with the Elk Grove Soccer Club on term for a possible sale to them of the 99-acre Grant Line Road site. Furthermore, there was no mention of the soccer field in the city's five year capital improvement plan that was released in May.

Seeing that nothing has happened in recent months, just like the unfinished Outlet at Elk Grove shopping center, the soccer field is still dead.

On the cheery note, the inflated purchase of the parcel gave the city a justification to re-initiate expansion plans in the Cosumnes River flood plain and areas outside the urban service boundary. One out of two ain't bad!

Quote of the year - Elk Grove City Council Member

"There is an aspect of voodoo science to it that is un-provable. Dinosaurs didn't drive cars."

Comments by Pat Hume on climate change science.  

Suit by former EGPD officer - Canary in the coalmine 

In February, the Elk Grove Police Department was sued by a former probationary officer on the grounds he was dismissed based on his sexual orientation. The suit would be the first in a series of embarrassing blemishes on the city’s workforce and human resources practices which has been characterized as lacking racial and ethnic diversity.

Most bizarre video of Mayor Steve Ly

If you look on YouTube, you will find that site littered with videos of Mayor Steve Ly. While many of those videos are from Hmong language media outlets, we happened upon a relatively new video featuring what purports to be audio of the mayor.

While the voices sounds like Ly, it cannot be independently verified. Nonetheless, the video seems to be connected to the mayor's recent involvement between the Siskiyou County Sheriff John Lopey and purported illegal marijuana growers.

Truly a bizarre video.

Nothing succeeds like failure

Even though The Grove’s economic development department has not scored one single victory in landing an employer with hundreds of high-paying jobs, that hasn’t stopped them from expanding. Earlier this year, the city approved an expansion of the department staffing by one third. 

Maybe they can attend more Las Vegas trade shows.

What were they thinking? Visit Elk Grove idea crashes and burns 

Like the soccer stadium, another ill-fated scheme from mayor emeritus Gary Davis came crashing down to earth last summer. The executive director of Visit Elk Grove did not have his employment contract renewed after being on the job for just one year.

The old saying of putting lipstick on a pig comes to mind when thinking of making The Grove as a major tourist destination.  

On the plus side, at least taxpayer dollars were not used in this scheme. Maybe this silly idea of making The Grove a tourist destination can be deep-sixed once and for all. 

It’s about time!

Succumbing to pressure from civil rights groups like the Sacramento chapter of the NAACP and pointed criticism from many residents, the Elk Grove City Council agreed to hire an independent auditor to scrutinize the City of Elk Grove’s human resources practices, and more generally the “culture” at city hall.

We can’t imagine city hall head honchos like city manager Laura Gill or city attorney Jonathan Hobbs will dig an audit looking at the culture workers are subjected too on a daily basis, but for taxpayers, it just might provide the much-needed glimpse to see how these executives are serving citizens, or not. 

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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

EGN needs to back off! 2017 was a good year because the FPPC did not nail any of the Councilmembers with fines for campaign law violations!

Also, you left off one of the major accomplishments-the Grove announced that they have landed a couple major bicycle races, and the city gets to pay for the motel rooms and meals for all the participants! I don't know about you, but I think the Grove's new motto for 2018 ought to be "We're off to the races"!

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