Lacking City Council oversight, Elk Grove = Easy Mark, Sucker in Hobo Code

For those with any familiarity with the so-called Hobo Code, know the network of mostly wayward men had a secret code. That code could...

For those with any familiarity with the so-called Hobo Code, know the network of mostly wayward men had a secret code. That code could be used to signal to their brethren any number of characteristics with a particular locale or house.

For instance symbols as simple at a + or - sign would signify respectively a good person or a bad person. Many of the other symbols are more complex and could be very specific.

If there was a Hobo symbol on any of the welcome to Elk Grove signs, or perhaps ones placed in a city hall restroom, they would probably find the symbol to the left. That is the sign for an easy mark, or more specifically a sucker.

Given the follies of Elk Grove over the last several years this would be appropriate.

Consider the following examples.

Last year $38,000 of taxpayer money was spent hiring marketing consultants to help come up with a name for the city's civic center. The net result is even though portions of the Mello Roos-funded civic center will open in the coming months, the consultants, much less the city council, have not come up with a name for what is billed as the heart of Elk Grove.

Another example of Elk Grove being identified as an easy mark comes from the city's economic development department. About two years ago that department entered into a $50,000 contract with Birmingham, Ala.-based Retail Strategies.

By all appearances, the city's economic development director Darrell Doan came into contact with the Boys from 'Bama, as they have come to be known, while on a junket to Las Vegas. Doan was at a convention, for among other things, pitching for possible tenants at the Elk Grove ghost mall, but that is another story.

In any case, Doan with the blessing of former city manager Laura Gill gave the Boy's from 'Bama a $50,000 contract. What did the city get in return?

Nothing of value that's what!

Oh sure they gave Doan a boilerplate study filled with generalities and platitudes that he trotted out to the city council, but did it help land any new upscale retailers, much less secure the 99 Cent store promised for Elk Grove-Florin Road as promised? No, it did not.

Keep in mind according to their own website Retail Strategies touted their ability to recruit retailers like Dollar Tree to backwater cities in the MidSouth. Obviously, Elk Grove didn't even rank with those two-bit towns in the backwater American South. 

Their one year contract expired, and as far as we can tell it was not renewed. Seems the Boy's from 'Bama - Bear included (Bojangles you know who we are talking about) - were far more sophisticated than Elk Grove city hall folk and spotted the sucker symbol on the city's welcome sign and walked away with a cool $50,000. Nice work fellas!

Perhaps the most egregious example in the last few years of Elk Grove being played as chumps was the now infamous contract with Jerone Gerrese and his now-defunct P3 International. While the Boys from 'Bama took the city for $50,000, Geresse played Henry "Shaw" Gondorf to the city's Doyle Lonnegan and stung the city for almost $700,000. 

If you want to learn how the city got stung in this deal and the city attorney's less than stellar legal counsel, you can read about it here. Suffice it to say the city recovered about $4,000 after Elk Grove city attorney Jonathan Hobbs told the city council P3 was in material breach - the legal equivalent of a slam dunk - and the city would recover the full 700 grand.   

There are several other examples we can point to - city manager Jason Behrmann's no-bid $400,000 cubicle study; the near-disastrous Nigerian prince fiasco (read comments here); the Old Town ice rink; the Downtown Ford police car contract flub-up; tiny wayfinding signs at the auto mall; the supposed benefit of paying to host the Amgen Tour of California. The list is long and glorious.

The bigger point is this - when will the five-member city council sit up, take their oversight responsibilities seriously, and pay attention to the endless wasteful spending at city hall? Chance are if they haven't done it yet, they are unlikely to do it until it is too late.

One thing is a sure bet - as long as the city council is laissez-faire with their oversight responsibilities, they and all the other responsible parties at city hall will continue to be tagged as easy marks and suckers by any number of predators seeking easy prey. As one taxpayer recently ruminated about the city hall follies - they don't care because it's not their money!   


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