Elk Grove Mayoral Candidates Talk Incentives, Campaign Financing

Elk Grove mayoral candidates (left to right) Sophia Scherman, Lynn Wheat, Greg Higley, Gary Davis , LaWanna  Montgomery and Jerry Braxmeye...

Elk Grove mayoral candidates (left to right) Sophia Scherman, Lynn Wheat, Greg Higley, Gary Davis , LaWanna  Montgomery and Jerry Braxmeyer. 

With three of the four planned forums completed, two of which were held in the last four days, the six candidates (Sophia Scherman, Lynn Wheat, Greg Higley, Gary Davis, LaWanna Montgomery and Jerry Braxmeyer) vying to become Elk Grove's first elected mayor continued to make their respective pitches last night.

Tuesday night's mayoral forum, which was held at the Commons Retirement Home in Elk Grove that attracted about two dozen people, came on the heels of Saturday's forum where Elk Grove City Council Member Sophia Scherman put into question her city council colleague's Gary Davis' role in attracting California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) jobs to Elk Grove.

Although Scherman didn't directly cast aspersions on Davis' self-described role in attracting CCHCS as she did on Saturday, the question of the $3.3 million incentives offered by Elk Grove to the agency was addressed and mostly criticized by several of the candidates in the one hour plus session.

During a question on Elk Grove's business reputation Davis noted that while he wasn't the first person to approach the state about bringing jobs to Elk Grove, he did take a different approach.

"I started cold calling agencies and department heads and convincing them that Elk Grove is the place were they want to locate," he said. "And yes, the city had to be creative and develop a financial incentive for them."

Alluding to the CCHCS, Davis said these effort brought 1,500 jobs to the city.

As she did on Saturday, Scherman casts doubts on Davis' claims.

"I haven't seen those 1,500 jobs," Scherman said. "Right now we don't have 1,500 jobs."

"It wasn't 1,500 new jobs, it was 1,500 jobs stolen from Sacramento at the cost of $3.3 million to us taxpayers," Wheat noted. Wheat went on to say that money could have been used to help small businesses to help fill the retail and commercial vacancies throughout the city.

Braxmeyer criticized the $3.3 million CCHCS incentive saying it would hurt public safety.

"The 1,500 jobs came at a huge, huge price," Braxmeyer said. "Our police force was asked to take concessions and forgo pay raise in order to pay that $3.3 million. That is wasteful spending."

Later Wheat came back to the incentive topic in a question about economic development and jobs and criticized the incentive packages the city has offered.

"I spoke to one council member and I said 'How are we going to bring more jobs here,'" she said. "'We'll keep offering incentives until the money is gone.' Is that going to work for us, really. That's our tax dollars."

Another theme that five candidates collectively took aim at Davis was on campaign finance. Following a question where reporter Bryan Gold noted that it has taken up to and over $200,000 to run for a city council position that pays $600 a month, Scherman said if she is elected, she would examine the possibility of reforming local campaign financing.

"I shouldn't be necessary to raise over $100,000," Scherman said. "All you do is motivated to go after that dollar and your forget that you are here to serve the citizens of Elk Grove."

Wheat, who has voluntarily limited her personal campaign spending to less than $1,000 and has made campaign finance reform one her campaign's pillars said by not accepting donations "she is not obligated to any donors."

Davis, who has been a prodigious fundraiser who alone has raised over $130,000 since announcing his bid last year said "I am not wealthy and I don't have the ability to fund my own campaign." He also said the fundraising in the worst part of any campaign.

"My job is not to serve my high priced donor," Braxmeyer noted.

Listen to the complete audio for the forum here.

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Anonymous said...

"Called The Grove Leadership Academy, the school would focus on community service and leadership training and ask parents to volunteer 40 hours of their time each year. The concept is already drawing support from parents disgruntled with changes in Elk Grove Unified and district teachers looking for a new challenge.

If approved, the school would be only the second independent charter school to take root in Elk Grove. It’s the brainchild of city councilmember Gary Davis, an education reform advocate whose day job is lobbying for the non-profit EdVoice.

State law grants local school district and county education boards the authority to approve or deny plans for charter schools, which receive public funds but operate independently of school districts."

"Elk Grove City Council Member and mayoral candidate Gary Davis is leading the drive to open the Grove Leadership Academy in the Laguna West area.

His staff delayed their school’s proposed opening until August 2013 after they resubmit a new charter petition to the district staff. They are not forwarding their plan to the county’s education board for approval.

“The district seemed heavily focused on denying us,” Davis said.

If Elk Grove school district, Sacramento County, or state education officials approve their petition, the academy would be a publicly funded operation that runs its own curriculum.

Employees in 10 Elk Grove school district departments reviewed the academy’s petition, and they found it to be deeply flawed in its financial and academic plans.

They recommended to the school board to deny the charter petition at their Feb. 21 meeting.

Key among the staff concerns was that the academy would heavily depend on a $575,000 federal startup grant.

District staff determined that the academy would only be eligible for a smaller, two-year grant and they reported the school’s budget would have a $128,000 shortfall within five years.

Kathy Hamilton, a district administrator who oversees local charter schools, told the school board that the academy teachers’ salaries were inconsistent unless teachers expected to take major pay cuts to keep their school open.

She mentioned that the academy staff wants to use the district’s student data system, which would cost an estimated $200,000 in district staff time to install.

Hamilton later noted flaws in the charter petition where it cited discontinued state exams, and she said there were passages that appeared to be lifted from other charter petitions.

Davis and a few academy staff members fired back at the review and accused the district staff of doing their best to dismiss the petition.

He also accused the district of hiring law firms that specialize in denying proposed charter schools.

Besides his city leadership, Davis is the political director of Ed Voice, a public education reform advocacy group.

Geri Keskeys, an academy co-founder and longtime Elk Grove Unified teacher, said her charter school is ultimately about giving parents and students more choices in their education.

“I think this has become so political that many of you have lost sight about what we’re about,” she said. “It’s not about taking money or teachers from this district, this is about educating all children for the 21st century.”

Maggie Ellis, the president of the Elk Grove Education Association that represents the district’s teachers, said they generally “don’t believe” in charter schools.

“I don’t believe that charters necessarily do any better than public schools,” she said, adding there’s not enough oversight on how well charters educate students and use public funds.

Davis said his staff will revise their second charter petition and submit it shortly to the district."

Anonymous said...

This looks like a Kevin Johnson plan. What's next Davis, your going to start making all school charters? This does not look good for Davis.

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