Job Sector Declines Bad Omen for Elk Grove’s Future

Elk Grove Promenade is emblematic of Elk Grove’s lost decade; time to change course is now During Wednesday night’s Elk Grove City Counci...

Elk Grove Promenade is emblematic of Elk Grove’s lost decade; time to change course is now

During Wednesday night’s Elk Grove City Council meeting, council member Gary Davis was talking about the city’s sphere of influence application as it related to a request from the Sunset Skyranch Airport’s request for the city to intervene on their behalf over county’s planned closure of the facility.

As it related to future development near the airport, Davis said the city doesn’t need more rooftops, instead he said we need “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

We agree with Davis, Elk Grove does need more jobs. But just what type of jobs are we talking about?

Elk Grove’s lost decade

Past behavior, we are told, is the best indicator of future behavior. With this in mind, what has the behavior of Elk Grove's first 10 years of existence taught us?

The answer lies about a mile from the presumed ill-fated Sunset Ranch Airport – The Elk Grove Promenade. The development of the mall and the surrounding area was supposed to be Elk Grove’s crowning achievement.

The Xanadu like development was going to bring Elk Grove jobs, sales tax revenue and most importantly, respect. “We coulda had class. We coulda been a contender. We coulda been somebody.”

What happened?

The half-built strip center is emblematic of Elk Grove’s lost decade. It is a decade where our elected officials have spent considerable resources enabling suburban sprawl while at the same time chasing low paying retail jobs via the continued development of one retail strip center after another, many of which have space that has never been occupied.

The Elk Grove Promenade was supposed to be anchored by two department store anchors. This week Mayor Sophia Scherman gurgled like a school girl with her first crush specualting that the strip-center-on-steroids might be redeveloped as an outlet mall that would be perfect for a Macy’s or Dillards.

Not coincidentally, it was reported recently that the job sector that is expected to lose the most jobs is the department store sector of retailing. Employment is expected to lose 10.2 percent of the 1.56 million jobs they had in 2008.

This comes on top of statistics from the Department of Labor that show there essentially was no net job growth for the last decade.

So what is Elk Grove to do in the coming decade given the predicted demise of department store jobs (which were presumed to fill the Elk Grove Promenade) and the national trend showing ZERO net job creation over the last decade?

On one hand, the first thing the city needs to continue doing is closely monitoring finances. Every assumption and spending decision needs to be questioned in the context of a cost-benefit analysis.

For example, does the city really need to expand its workforce by adding a deputy city attorney that could cost the city up to $154,000 plus “excellent benefits” annually?

We need to ask and the city needs to answer what are the benefits to Elk Grove citizens of adding this cost? Does this added expenditure fit Davis’ proclamation that the city needs to attract “jobs, job, jobs.”

To this end, if the city is insistent upon pursuing low paying retail jobs, which has been its behavior over the lost decade, why not peg city executive salaries to the average income earned by retail salespersons in the city limits?

In this case that wage is said to be $24,855 and apply a multiple of five for the highest wage possible for city executives.

In this case, the city’s top executives, presumably city manager and Laura Gill and city attorney Susan Cochrane would have been limited to a maximum pay of $124,275. Certainly more than a livable wage if they choose to live in the fair city from which they draw their salaries, benefits and lavish pensions.

Not to belabor the point, but this limit could actually be viewed as an incentive for city executives and elected officials to work toward attracting high paying jobs instead of lower paying retail jobs. After all, we are told that government should be run more like a business.

Speaking of jobs, the city need to continue to work tirelessly to attract state agencies and work with the Elk Grove Economic Development Corporation. The city needs to shift its focus way from its obsessive focus on, as Davis put it, “rooftops” and development of milquetoast retail strip centers and their accompanying low paying jobs and focus on developing the type of infrastructure that will attract the innovative employers of the future.

We are in a global economy that cannot sustain the people of Elk Grove by providing retail jobs. The city needs to apply fiscal discipline with every dollar of taxpayers’ money that they have stewardship of and look beyond just attracting another Wal-Mart Super Center as the source of future employment.

It is as Davis said, all about “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Post a Comment Default Comments


Insania said...

Last September the argument for SOI was laid bare -- the city needed to expand to capture a large enough swath of as-yet-unspoken-for dirt in which to attract the 55,000 average median income (AMI) jobs that the city council said were needed. That is, we need even a bigger chunk to supposedly create something like a Florin-Fruitridge or Pell/Main industrial park -- someplace to house all these AMI jobs.

I am admittedly not a fan of such single use development, but hey, if creating a separate "work zone" establishes some jobs other than strip retail associates, well, that's better than what we have today. I suppose I should just accept our zoning code and accept that it's wrong to live right next to bothersome, noisy, polluting office buildings employing professionals such as engineers or lawyers.

Elk Grove supposedly cannot attract these jobs because we've already spoken for every blade of remaining field grass within the existing city limits -- they will all get mowed down for more roads, strip malls and low-density housal units.

So tell me, do you expect that this time, our city council will voluntarily reverse two decades of unmitigated suburban sprawl once a new patch of land is made available? What past actions would suggest to you that they are at all capable of correctly planning something so complex as to attract 55,000 $51,000 jobs? The Promenade? Light Rail? Working Economic Incentive Programs? City Charter? The existing city is pockmarked by a little subdivision here, a bigger subdivision there, and even that growth is poorly coordinated.

It is my belief that Elk Grove cannot attract > AMI jobs -- SOI or no SOI. This belief stems from past actions but more importantly, from the legacy of those actions -- that Elk Grove is not a place any substantive business would seriously contemplate.

Casper said...

Great story. I think we need a Super Walmart so everyday citizens like me have a place to shop. I'm sick of NIMBY attitudes on everything. This City Council and staff have no vision for a future.

SacramentoCrash said...

City needs to expand its sphere of influence like it needs a hole in its head.

What do they want to do? Merge with Stockton? Wonderful, a north south ghetto starting with South Sac then south South Sac (EG) and then North Stockton.

Unknown said...

This is actually a great post, though Davis' desire to create more jobs will not occur. Elk Grove has not only lost a decade, ironically the first decade of its cityhood, but is probably lost forever. It used to be viewed as a quiet, bedroom community in the country. Now, its 150,000 people who mostly have to commute elsewhere because there are no good jobs in the city, outside of public services, teachers, etc. When companies come to the Sacramento area, they aim to locate in Roseville, Folsom, Natomas, or the mega-office park in Rancho Cordova if they cannot afford Dtown Sac prices. EG had great opportunty to secure some of these businesses at the turn of the cenutry - how hard would it have been to construct a mega-office park out off of I-5 or in the area that is Madiera - not very. By the city council sold out and allowed the hosuing developers who fund their campaigns to get whatever they wanted. Half the cit's budget goes to a useless police department who spend on things they absolutely do not need (really, a SWAT command center?). The mall was a good idea, but it took too long to come into reality - Roseville and Fosom didnt have those problems. And the city did not even build in penalties for the developer because no one on the council understands how to make a deal that is good for EG. I guess the real problem, however, lies with you citizens of Elk Grove for continually electing clowns like Cooper and Scherman to the council. I am glad I do not live there anymore and feel bad for those who are still there to have had to witness the downward spiral Elk Grove is still on.

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