Opinion: Elk Grove City Government – Citizens fight for good governance!

By Connie Conley |December 16, 2013 | Recently, active citizens have taken to public comment at Elk Grove City Council meetings, an...

By Connie Conley |December 16, 2013 |

Recently, active citizens have taken to public comment at Elk Grove City Council meetings, and on online news sources such as Elk Grove News, to denounce bad city governance that has once again reared its ugly head. 

This was never more evident than at the December 10, 2013, Elk Grove City Council meeting regarding Consent Calendar Item 8.16 pertaining to Whitelock Parkway and the proposed new interchange. The planned interchange could potentially wipe out a portion of one of Elk Grove’s most historically used landmarks, Elk Grove Regional Park.

Thomas Jefferson said, “History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.” 

So let’s take a brief look at the city of Elk Grove’s history of bad government; because of late, history seems to be repeating itself.

Thirteen years ago, Elk Grove voters decided that we should become our own city.  The banner read “Local Control, Local Control, Local Control,” as it was decided we needed to sever ties with the county of Sacramento. Active citizens had such high hopes for our city’s governance, only to be disappointed early on.  

In a city manager form of government, a manager is needed who is tough enough to say that one word council members never want to hear; and that word is, “No.”  For our city’s own good, and most certainly the first city council’s own good, because the original five taking that oath of office were green in experience, we had a strong administrative and qualified leader in City Manager David Jinkins, who had the courage to speak up.

But as politicians go, it didn’t take long for the egos to kick in; the delusions of grandeur, the allure of power, the smell of developer money, and suddenly we had an all-knowing council that didn’t take too kindly to Jinkins trying to do his job effectively. So another of many back-door coups took place and Jinkins was soon gone, replaced by John Danielson. City council watchers almost immediately found out that Danielson, with his autocratic approach to governance, along with his hired guns, quickly took over Elk Grove, along with the city council with his divide and conquer management style, sending our city on a path from which we are still trying to recover.

Fed up, a well thought-out citizen uprising began in 2005, and the first order of business was to start replacing the original council. When elected to the Elk Grove City Council in 2006, we had such high hopes for Gary Davis and Pat Hume. And from the first night they took their oath of office, we thought we hit pay dirt, because finally Jim Cooper had some help. One of their first orders of business: Cooper, Davis and Hume voted to rescind lifetime benefits to John Danielson and former City Attorney Anthony Manzanetti who were smart enough to see the writing on the wall and their tenure, along with sovereign reign of our city, was about to end. 

Another council member had to go next the next election cycle and that was Michael Leary. So in 2008, an unknown who made a name for himself by surrounding himself with smart people and defeated a Walmart Supercenter, was elected to the Elk Grove City Council. Steve Detrick was elected to be the people’s council member. 

However, of late, some believe his tenure on the city council has been anything but that. By his continued surly comments at the December 10 Elk Grove City Council meeting aimed at some of those same citizens, it appears Detrick has turned his back on the very people who worked so hard to elect him; opting instead for developers with special interests such as Gil Moore and his tens-of-thousands of dollars in checks written to Detrick.

But alas, try as the Elk Grove City Council and staff may to force a docile constituency, the December 10 meeting proved anything but.  These soldiers of democracy continue to march up the aisle to address the council during public comment and speak their minds; even though insulted by the very council members they worked so hard to elect. 

These citizens refuse to give up, and rightfully so, for they know when there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government. To his credit, Hume responded, by pulling the contentious item 8.16 from the consent calendar for discussion. 

As a point of reference, the consent calendar groups the routine, procedural, informational and self-explanatory non-controversial items typically found in an agenda.  But that hasn’t been true in Elk Grove’s history.  Over the years, many a controversial item has been hidden on the consent calendar by whoever placed it here, usually the city manager, hoping no one would notice.  Nice try getting them past our keen-eyed governmental watchdogs!

Nevertheless the message on the 10th from citizens was heard loud and clear in council chambers, “Don’t hide items on the consent calendar! Didn’t you learn from the past when this trick was repeatedly tried by the old regime!”

However, with a new election year on the horizon in 2014, along a vacant seat up on Elk Grove City Council, we voters have another chance to elect representatives who won’t succumb to the trappings of power and elect those who are dedicated to upholding good government.

But no matter who is elected, in Elk Grove, we are fortunate to have solid civically-engaged citizens who take their roles very seriously, who have the energy it takes, and as evident by the December 10th council meeting, continue to be unafraid to speak up against dishonesty in our government with their well thought-out, educated opinions. 

President Abraham Lincoln said people will save their government and in Elk Grove, we have an intelligent citizen legislature; and because we do, we will always have a fighting chance for the good government our city deserves and elected leaders we can trust.  

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Hiram Johnson said...

Recalls and Referendums, tools of the ignored citizen's trade...We remember you Hiram...

Anonymous said...

Now all we need is good people to run and the ability to beat the yes people plugged into local political circles and donors.

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