First Mayoral Election Poker Hand From Elk Grove City Council Dais Between Ly, Suen is a Push

May 25, 2018 |  

In politics and campaign strategies, there is a gamemanship that is not immediately apparent. Such was the case at the Wednesday, May 23 meeting of the Elk Grove City Council.

Two of the three declared candidates for Elk Grove mayor are currently serving on the city council and they are quickly engaging in a game of poker. There is incumbent Mayor Steve Ly and his challenger, Vice Mayor Darren Suen. 

At the Wednesday night meeting, one of the items under consideration was a discussion of loosening the city's project labor agreements standards and the establishment of a youth training/apprenticeship program. The items were placed on the agenda at the request of Ly at their May 9 meeting.

At first glance, the apparent reason Ly asked for the discussion was as a favor to the various construction trade unions that have been one of the most important groups of patrons since his entry into elected office in 2012. Indeed, Ly has taken tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars from trade unions, particularly Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447, in direct contributions and independent expenditure committees - remember Ly's aerial advertising on election day in 2016?

During the deliberations, talking in code, Ly doggedly advocated for his union patrons. Regardless of the outcome of the discussion, Ly appeared to be headed toward a political victory. 

Notwithstanding a muddled presentation of his idea, if the council had agreed with him, he could produce a mailer telling voters he successfully created a youth apprenticeship program. If they voted against him, he could provide another mailer saying his colleagues are thwarting his efforts to bring jobs to Elk Grove.   

But then a couple of twists to the hand occured. 

The first was the bombshell dropped by Suen that he had been working on apprenticeship programs for, in his words, "about a month" or "maybe long than that." While he did not say who he was woking with, he spoke and looked to city attorney Jonathan Hobbs for affirmation. 

The announcement not only appeared to be a surprise to Ly, but to the three other council members as well. 

One source with extensive city government experience noted if one one council member was working in secrecy - if in fact, this was the case - on a matter as significant and important as this is outside the norm. In certain instances where a council member bypasses a city manager and goes directly to a department head without the consent from council colleagues, or for that matter the mayor, has led to terminations of staff members. 

Put another way, while not illegal, it is a breach of typical protocol that creates an atmosphere of mistrust, paranoia and is a big no-no. So much for the working well together mantra Ly and other council members espouce. 

Regardless of how Suen handled his project - was he working in secrecy without former city manager Laura Gill's knowledge, much less the council's, it raises another question. Did Ly find about this a couple of weeks ago and move to seize or neutralize Suen's sub rosa work?

While Ly has been reliant on union patronage, word on the street is that at least one construction trade union is supporting Suen's challenge. A representative of the particular trade union attended Wednesday's meeting.

Like Ly, was Suen working on changing the apprenticeship program to curry favor and, even better from his perspective, siphon money that would have otherwise gone to the mayor? Did Ly find out from a union contact or perhaps another city employee and bring the matter forward in a council meeting for any number of political reasons?

Regardless of how this played out in the bowels of city hall, the outcome for both candidates was neutralized once Suen suggested the ad hoc committees. Anyone who follows politics knows what this means.

An ad hoc committee, blue-ribbon commission or whatever name is used, is where controversial issues that politicians do not want to deal with in any meaningful way go to die. Does anyone remember any substantive change in policy or findings that came from the 9/11 Commission? Ly acknowledged as much in his Wednesday night comments. 

So this hand of poker between Ly and Suen was, to use parlance familiar to gamblers, a push. Better luck next hand fellas. 

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1 comment

Josie said...

Mayoral candidates now playing "Elk Grove - The Opera" at City Hall on the taxpayers dollar!

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