2015 Year in Review - Part I

December 30, 2015 |

Doozy (corporate welfare) of the year award - Christmas came early for the developers of SEPA (Southeast Planning Area) in 2015. In June the Elk Grove City Council pledged $5.5 million to finance the installation of the “backbone” infrastructure (streets, drainage facilities, etc.) for this 375-acre goldmine, thereby saving the developers from having to pay the costs or the City having to issue assessment bonds (Mello-Roos).

Don’t ask the City how long it will take before the taxpayers “loan” is paid off - they don’t know. The City will be reimbursed only as quickly as building permits are issued, one building permit at a time. While SEPA is expected to take 20 years to develop, the market will actually determine how long it will take before the City is paid back in full. Can you imagine the private sector tying up $5.5 million for an unknown period of time!
Elk Grove City Council and SEPA infrastructure improvements- 
corporate welfare in action!

Christmas came early for the developers of SEPA, because if the City had followed the more traditional route and issued 30-year assessment bonds, the developers would have had to begin paying the City back in installments immediately (even while the land remained undeveloped for a time). With Santa Taxpayer stepping in with cash, the developers pay nothing and shift the loan repayment burden to the individual buyers as each home is sold.

The City has justified this arrangement on the grounds that SEPA will provide jobs and stimulate economic development. The only problem is a binder sitting on a bookshelf saying jobs will be created and the reality of meaningful job growth in the region are two different things. But no worries, Santa has the developers covered. SEPA introduced a new term: “Flex zoning” that essentially allows any land use, regardless of the stated land use given in the document. So while job creation makes for good soundbites, flex zoning assures the developers that their properties will not be held hostage waiting for those jobs to occur.

Looking back at the track record of the City, there sure are a lot more rooftops and retail coming our way!

How long before the Outlet Collections at Elk Grove will
draw Black Friday crowds and traffic jams? 
Hope Dies Last Award - We aren't quite sure who deserves this award - Elk Grove shopaholics or the Elk Grove City Council. Regardless, another Christmas shopping season has come and gone, and the Elk Grove Promenade, now known as the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove still lies dormant. The good news according to an October 2015 Sacramento Business Journal story is that the mall is tentatively planned to "open in about a year." We'll see if shoppers and the five councilmen will get their wish and be shopping next Christmas at the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove.

Ugliest billboard of the year award - There were two entries this year, and while the competition was stiff, the award goes to Bruce Bishop's billboard on Highway 99 between Bond Road and Elk Grove Boulevard. Even though Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Detrick likes to call the gigantic plastic elk festooning the top of the billboard public art, seriously, we find it a rather tacky symbol for people driving Elk Grove through to see. With Elk Grove City Councilmen Pat Hume, Steve Ly and Darren Suen giving full-throated support for electronic billboards, competition in this category will again be stiff in 2016.

Why does Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Detrick
so strenuously object to by-district council seats?
Preserving the 'Good Old Boy' system award - If there was ever a better example of an Elk Grove City Council Member preserving a self-serving "good old boy" exclusionary system than Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Detrick, we can't recall when.

During the December 9, 2015 Elk Grove City Council meeting Detrick defended the city's "good old boy" system of electing council members on a citywide basis saying it is a better way to represent constituents. Ever the prolific fundraiser, Detrick failed to mention that if he ran on a by-district basis he would face more opponents in the election as the price to run an effective campaign would drop precipitously, and who knows, he might not hold onto his seat in that scenario.

Money unites Us Award - The Steve's - Elk Grove City Councilmen Detrick and Ly that is - are joined at the hip in their desire to exclude others from entering the political ring by maintaining the "good old boy" from district system of electing council members.

Wasting no time to tap donors award - After taking his oath in early December 2014, Elk Grove Councilman Steve Ly held a fundraiser in late January. Sponsored by Region Business, now called Region Builders, Ly tapped into the developers that dictate life in Elk Grove. Between this and other contributions Ly snagged over $35,000. Not a bad take. Darren Suen, who was appointed to the council gets an honorable mention for holding his first fundraiser last summer. We'll have to wait to February, 2016 to see how he compares to Ly.

Broken Promise of the Year - There are so many, but the "best" in this category is shared by Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis and Councilman Steve Ly. You many recall the slick mailers both men sent out in their 2014 campaigns promising to bring high-paying jobs to Elk Grove. Well it has been over a year and a month (see our front page clock) and we are still waiting for those jobs you two singularly promised residents.

Has his own entourage award - We can understand why the POTUS needs a photographer documenting events for history, but really, why does Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Ly find it necessary to be followed around at events by his own personal photographer? We just hope Ly's entourage isn't following him around on the taxpayers dime.

That's a load of crap award - That's what Councilman Steve Detrick told Councilman Steve Ly during a council meeting when Ly explained why he needed to have taxpayers pay for some guy to follow him around town taking pictures of him.

With his trademark pomadour
hairpieces,Jim Traficant spent time
in prison after enjoying his
fundraising activities. 
The Dan Lungren "The only Congress members who liked fundraising are in prison now" award - The Steve's both seem to have a fondness for fundraising and relying on the "kindness of developers," to paraphrase Blanche DuBois, in their quest to maintain their political from-district empires. Watch it fellas, as your fate might be like Lungren's former Congressional colleagues Duke Cunningham and Jim Traficant.

Frenemies of the year award - The Steves - need we say more?

The Best News for Shoppers in Elk Grove - In October, Costco announced plans to build a store on the southeast corner of Elk Grove Boulevard and Bruceville Road - a great addition to the city's sales tax base and Elk Grove shoppers.

The worst news for Elk Grove Boulevard traffic - see the best news for shoppers above.

Best disappearing act award  - Whatever happened to the Elk Grove Police Activities League? When the Elk Grove City Council discussed community grants last February, the five men decided
against funding the group even though they have been one of its largest beneficiaries of Federal grants in the last several years. Then, later in the year, it was revealed that the Elk Grove Police Chief ordered a financial audit of the group. The finding said the group was ripe with "opportunity for fraud." Obviously, something is rotten in Denmark.

The Tricky Dick trust me award - Elk Grove Council Member Steve Detrick was heads and shoulders about his many competitors vying for this award. To evade an expensive fine from the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Detrick told the state's political watchdog agency he repaid his campaign the $93,000 the FPPC said he illegally used for personal purposes. Low and behold, the FPPC later admitted that Detrick never repaid the $93,000, but they were powerless to take any action against Detrick.

The somebody-finally-paid-attention-to-the-art-and-culture in Elk Grove award - In a city that is awestruck with promoting athletics in all forms to varying degrees of success, it was nice to see the Elk Grove Committee for the Arts launch its Arts Americana festival. Good job!

Most worthless political watchdog organization award - California Fair Political Practices Commission, see Tricky Dick trust me award above.

Strangest way to fund a public works project award - Somebody at Elk Grove City Hall came up with the bright idea to use crowd sourcing to fund an animal shelter. The city started a GoFundMe account with the goal of raising $10,000 for an animal shelter. In the first three months they raised about $265. At this pace, they might actually raise the $10,000 in about 10 years. We are not sure if this idea was dumbfounding or just plain dumb.    

Worst power grab award - At a special retreat meeting of the Elk Grove City Council last March, then Vice Mayor Pat Hume suggested that the city explore the possibility of a takeover of the Cosumnes Community Services District. The idea was met with bewilderment and shock from the CCSD General Manager and Directors. Needless to say, if the city pursues a takeover, it would be a hostile one.

Jeroen Gerrese - would you buy a used
car from this man? 
Worst looking lawsuit award - The winner of this is the City of Elk Grove's lawsuit against the now disbanded entity known as P3 International. Readers will recall the Elk Grove City Council awarded a $700,000+ contract to P3I and its principle Jeroen Gerrese in September 2013. After Gerrese was unable to secure financing, an operator of the proposed facility and pretty much everything else he promised, the city, hoping to save face, sued. In P3I's defense, any number of people who observe such matters could see that Gerrese identified the Elk Grove City Council, how can we say this politely, as an easy mark.  
You can't keep a good man down award  - If for no other reason that to deflate F. Scott Fitzgerald's claim there are no second acts in America, this award goes to Jeroen Gerrese (see above). After dissolving P3 International, Gerrese rebounded and founded his Elk Grove-based business Shiraz Group Asset Management. Perhaps Gerrese used some of that $700,000 for this home-based venture. 

Continued here ...

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