Even In Elk Grove Politics, Optics Matter

May 12, 2015 | Earlier this year the Elk Grove City Council voted against an always controversial proposition brought forward by Coun...

May 12, 2015 |

Earlier this year the Elk Grove City Council voted against an always controversial proposition brought forward by Council Member Steve Detrick. His proposal, which was defeated by a 3-2 vote, would have given Elk Grove City Council Members a 10-percent pay raise. 

At tomorrow night's meeting, the City Council will consider perhaps their second trickiest vote so far this year - whether or not to create their own political machine on taxpayers backs. In this case, it comes in the form of full-time assistants for the part-time politicians.

The proposal, which was brought forward after Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis and his protege, Council Member Steve Ly, said at the March special retreat meeting they needed more than a 12-hours-a-week intern they are currently provided. Interestingly, at that same meeting veteran Council Member Pat Hume said when he had an intern, it was a struggle to find enough work for the 12-hour schedule. 

Nevertheless, the Council will consider several options to increase taxpayer-paid staffing. One of the alternatives they will explore is hiring a full-time assistant for the mayor and each council member on top of their 12-hour a week intern.

For those who closely follow these matters, Davis and Ly have already said they support having a paid personal assistant, or in the case of the Mayor, a Chief of Staff. Hume has indicated he would not support each council member having an assistant, and for a variety of factors, Detrick is not likely to support Davis' and Ly's proposition.

If this scenario plays out something like this, that means the deciding vote could fall on Council Member Darren Suen. You could say Suen will be the Council's Anthony Kennedy, at least on this vote.

So how will Suen vote? Will he side with the Liberals Davis and Ly, or will he go along with the Conservative faction of Detrick and Hume?

For Suen, a vote with the Liberals is done with substantial political risk. 

As an appointee, Suen does not have the results of a recent election like Ly does to gauge his popularity with voters. Will voters react favorably to this quarter-of-a-million-dollar potential spending increase in non-essential city staffing, if say, for example e-Tran commuter routes are cut, for positions that one of his colleague has said is unnecessary? 

Furthermore, if Suen votes for this increased staffing for what can be argued is a political patronage job, how will it look combined with the fact he was part of Detrick's losing coalition to give themselves a 10-percent pay raise?  

Combined, they can be a pretty good one-two combination. We can see it now - Suen votes for a personal pay increase and personal assistant while cutting constituents bus commuter services! the mailers will scream.

So as the city council deliberates whether or not to hire themselves personal assistants or a chief of staff, and how to best address e-Tran deficits, we hope Council Member Suen remembers  - optics matter.  



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Anonymous said...

Since we operate under a council-manager government and not a Strong Mayor form, I did find a comment "I was told" that Mr. Suen made....he felt that he should support the Mayor in decision making policy. Now hopefully, that was not true. I would hope that each council member would want to have an equal voice in policy making and oversight. I don't think my neighbors want their voices lost in decision making anymore than they have already.

Only time will tell...we're watching too!

Doc Bricker said...

I guess the event planning business must be tough right now (in a couple instances).

Anonymous said...

Darren is a Davis protege if there ever was one...he and Ly can't kiss the mayor's ass enough. Ly is just plain stupid; Darren on the other hand has future hopes and dreams of building this appointment into something more lucrative for himself. Darren will line up behind Davis 9 out of 10 times...guaranteed. It would not surprise me if that statement about "supporting the mayor" is true. Unfortunately, Darren is just another yes man..he won't stray from Mayor Davis' out-of-touch ridiculous ideas and half based notions...oh yeah, Darren believes the "destination city" mantra with all his heart. So misguided.

Anonymous said...

Exactly right.

A quarter of a million is a quarter of a million taken from somewhere.

Which services would be cut?

Bus service is very likely - but watch for denial from council members that there is any correlation between cut services and the NEED for added staff.

Will these new paid staff, per chance, all be comely young females?

(I write that question as a female myself.)

Anonymous said...

well, my guess is that they will be relatives of someone who works at city hall....does detrick son still need a joh? how about ly's mother in law; or darren's sister?? these guys will certainly line the pockets of sweetheart appointments...let's not forget the mayor's chief of staff....omg, this is getting irritating as hell

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Elk Grove and one who was, at one time, in attendance at every city council meeting I have come to feel as an "outsider" now. I do try to listen to the meetings from home, but many times just give up on that too. I certainly don't know how to take back our city from the influence of the money grabbers...perhaps that will only happen when the kitty is bare. That may be sooner than we think...

Pegasus said...

I guess we'll see what Mr. Suen has learned in his first few months as an "appointed" leader of our community.

My educated guess is that he'll side with the mayor as he's shown support for the mayor despite the cock-a-mamie ideas the mayor has floated out from the dais over the past year or so. If he follows blindly out of some sort of self-imposed allegience he may be signing his own death warrant as a politician. Voting for a 10% raise and now for a full-time assistant after a few months tells me that Mr. Suen is not up for the job.

He and Mr. Coffee need to figure out where their priorities lie.

We all need to figure out what is best for our city. From where I sit, it's time for wholesale changes on the dais. Those gentlemen are putting their best interests above those who put them their (excluding Mr. Suen).

Anonymous said...

Was just thinking that we have a Chili Festival this weekend...looked on the City web site and after some searching finally found a little info. Next choice was just to go online and do a search and found all I needed to know in the Folsom Telegraph.

I seem to remember we hired a full-time Events person...Mayor better get your "Chief of Staff" on that one.


Anonymous said...

As a Liberal myself I would ask that Davis and Ly please not be labeled as such. A more appropriate designation would be Maniacs. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

We are seeing Davis for who he really is. Those unethical deals and unethical behaviors behind close doors in EG city hall are now visibly to the public. We are not judging our leaders based on one misstep. It is the overall decline of moral standard in Mayor Davis Administration.
Generally speaking, Mayor Davis Administration does not represent our values or serving the citizens of this city. Every move that Davis made is being questioned. Integrity matter!

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the "Rambunctious Boy," PH can bring some sense to this city. Yes, he is very intelligent and a great speaker and does have the patience to at least listen to us, maybe ask a question so he fully understands what we had to say...that's all we ask for! It's really all so very simple....

Silent Dogood said...

Saw this morning that KCRA is going to be shooting live from the council meeting tonight on this very subject.

Joan Harris said...

If the council decides to hire 5 personal assistants, I'll have my hands full not only managing the egos of the councilmen, but their assistants as well. Even if the Mayor gets a chief of staff like he has already suggested he has, that alone will be a handful. I have enough trouble controlling Roger, now I'll have to keep these 5 in line.

Connie said...

I emailed Laura Gill this morning for clarification on the salary.

The city has a seven step salary range. That was not included in the staff report just the figure of $53,700 to fund each position.
Gill’s response was, “The salary range for the Administrative Assistant position is $39,771 to $53,297. The total projected cost of $53,700 assumes step 1 of the range plus benefits.”

Gill is assuming, if approved, the position(s) would start at $40K with the extra 30% going for benefits.

I also asked the following and got no response: “Bottom line, we hear there is no money for road repairs, the Council is looking to cut e-Tran services, the proposed aquatics center is not fully funded, you can't make the proposed youth sport complex "pencil out," the money for the animal shelter, Senior Center and Veterans' Hall hasn't been allocated. Should I continue? And now suddenly you can come up with three quarters of a million dollars every year for five positions? How is that?”

Anonymous said...

Fundamentally, I'm not opposed to raises or to administrative staff. I am, however, opposed to self aggrandizing politicians who are more interested in the pomp and circumstance off their position than doing the mundane work of The City. Roads, economic development, public safety.... remember that?
When you start addressing those issues then perhaps you'll deserve some assistance. Until then, carry your own bags, take your own notes and manage your own calendar. Tell ya what... If I see you struggling with a bag, I'll help you carry it... so long as you're on your way to do work in the interest of The City.

Anonymous said...

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is trying to add more positions to side step the power he didn't get when the strong mayor initiative was overwhelming voted down.

The Sacramento City Council meeting last night was very heated with Steve Hansen not backing down.


Let's hope for the same "heated debate" tonight because it is needed on this agenda item!

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

While I agree with the comments posted about the inappropriateness of hiring up to 5 assistants, and Ms Conley’s questions on just how it is going to be paid for, I for one believe the Mayor and his fellow Councilmen will affirm this proposal.

We all tend to forget that the councilmen are having serial meetings about this and other matters on a regular basis. Perhaps Mayor Davis will counsel rookies Mr. Ly and Mr. Suen to ride the storm out. Sure, you will take a little heat in the short run from the few dozen malcontents in Elk Grove, Mayor Davis will tell them, but trust me they’ll have forgotten by next week, much less for your next election. Just promise your constituents anything they want to get their votes regardless of reality and it will all be good.

To ensure he has the nessesary votes, Mayor Davis will promise Mr. Detrick some sort of favor, or maybe more appropriately, political cover given his current challenges, for his support. Oh sure, Mr. Detrick will feign concern from the dais about being cost-neutral and these other lines he seems to be stuck on, but he thinks he knows a good deal when he sees one. If Mr. Detrick does vote for Mayor Davis’s chief of staff or his own personal assistant, he might as well have sold what little soul he has left.

So it goes. The only thing missing in this deal is the whiskey and smoke filled room.

Balsy said...

Elk Grove City Council comments at tonight's meeting should include Steve Hanson's quote, “This is not the time to feather our own nests. This is not the time to staff up at the top." And then add, "Now is the time to think about the e-tran riders who are about to lose vital services!"

So it begs the question: Do any of them have the "cojones" do say what needs to be said?

Anonymous said...

Capt.....or "if it doesn't pencil out."

You think Detrick hasn't learned his lesson yet on just how valuable those Davis promises/deals are?

Warren Buffett said...

Well, seeing that the TV cameras will be rolling, these characters will be hamming it up for the viewers. They're probably practicing their lines right now and are gonna throw out some soundbites that will make them look good. Too bad there's not a popcorn machine and coke stand in the lobby!

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